A Matter of Life & Death is perhaps Powell & Pressburger’s greatest masterpiece, a marvelously clever romantic fantasy that was supposedly inspired by a real event in which a British pilot returning from a World War II bombing raid miraculously survived a terrible plane crash. Powell & Pressburger spin an inspired confection out of that story: the pilot (played here by David Niven at his most charming) survives only because the angelic “conductor” tasked with transferring his soul to heaven is blinded by a good old English fog. Complicating matters, Niven has also now fallen in love with the American radio operator who intercepted his mayday call. As a result, he must argue his case in a heavenly court to be allowed to remain on earth: if he wins he lives; if he loses he dies. In an even more ingenious twist, we gradually come to realise that Niven’s whole heavenly fantasy is actually only a figment of his imagination, prompted by a brain injury sustained in the crash. Yet his life or death still hangs in the balance.